Editorial: Sense of urgency missing from economic expansion talk

A story from the other side of the state about a manufacturing company having difficulty finding Louisiana skilled workers

should send up a red flag for Southwest Louisiana.

Laitram Corp., a Harahan manufacturing company, said it is having to recruit skilled workers from outside Louisiana because

it can’t find the numbers it needs in Louisiana.

Rodney Landry, project manager for Turner Industries Group which supplies skilled trade workers to industries in Louisiana,

said his company alone may be as many as 12,000 workers short of meeting employment demands.

He said the oil and gas industry alone could add more than 30,000 technical jobs over the coming decade.

The Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance has said our area may need as many as 35,000 workers for the coming

industrial expansion in Calcasieu and Cameron parishes.

Several speakers at last month’s Stepping Up! convention in Lake Charles talked about the need to better coordinate training

programs in high school, two-year technical schools and universities in Louisiana.

That’s part of the equation. But

schools, industry and business leaders are going to have to do a better

job of recruiting

potential workers to enter these training programs. Louisiana

Association of Business and Industry President Stephen Waguespack

told this newspaper’s editorial board that talking in generalities

about the career opportunities doesn’t seem to be working

with high school students.

Hence, schools and industries are going to have to change their recruiting tactics, ditching the blanket messages for more

of a grassroots effort that may even have to include one-to-one sales pitches.

The task is formidable, the time is

short. The availability of Louisiana skilled workers will not stop

these multi-billion

projects from being constructed. Rest assured, if the skilled

workers aren’t available locally, companies will find the needed

workers from around the nation and possibly outside of our

country’s borders. More out-of-state and out-of-country workers

means Southwest Louisiana and the entire state will not reap the

full benefits of this expansion.

There’s been plenty of discussion of the need for training these skilled workers. But it’s time to stop talking about it and

apply a full-court press to recruiting and training these workers.

What’s been missing is a sense of urgency. The demand will begin next year and rise through 2017 and possibly beyond.

In terms of the training demands, that’s right around the corner.

 

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.